The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is seeing an increase in human smuggling attempts by plane as migrants try to avoid detection, saying that such attempts are becoming more common in the border state.
According to Texas Highway Patrol Staff Lieutenant Christopher Olivarez, Texas DPS has stopped three human smuggling attempts via plane at different airports in the same area of the Rio Grande Valley over the last 30 days.
One such incident at the Mid Valley Airport on Sunday led to the arrests of seven people, including six illegal immigrants – one of which was a deported felon from Mexico who was wanted out of Wisconsin in a child sexual assault case – and one female American citizen after DPS disrupted a human smuggling attempt by plane.
Two other incidents, which happened on Aug. 31 and on Sept. 23, involved a total of 31 illegal immigrants. In the human smuggling attempt incident in August, a DPS pilot conducted a ramp check on a Gulf Stream IV aircraft because he suspected it was being used in human smuggling.
Olivarez explains that these are smaller, private airports that don’t have the security measures in place for private planes used for smuggling. He noted that people smuggled with these planes are unprocessed illegal migrants who are trying to avoid detection.
Although required to match the names of passengers with the list of names on a manifest, charter pilots are not required to check the citizenship status of the passengers.
These charter planes are rented by a number of different criminal smuggling organizations which transport illegal immigrants from the Rio Grande Valley to other areas of Texas, such as, as Olivarez called it, the human trafficking “hub” Houston or outside the state of Texas.
These individuals that have not been formally released and have instead evaded Border Patrol are referred to as “gotaways” by border agents.
According to official estimates released in July, there have been about 55,000 getaways each month this fiscal year, or more than 500,000 at that time in FY22 that have slipped past agents but were detected by cameras or other sensors.